April 9, 2010

Artifact #4: Soapy in Mexico, 1895.

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Artifact #4, side A

In 1895 Soapy had several adventures down in old Mexico. The most important one involved the creation of an all-volunteer militia based on the French Foreign Legion. Soapy became "Colonel Jefferson Randolph Smith" and in grand showmanship Soapy convinced Mexican President José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz that he could aid the great nation to the south during a small revolution that was gaining popularity. According to the Denver newspapers Soapy went as far as opening up a recruitment office in Denver. We will never know how far Soapy would have taken this offer as Díaz called the deal off in mid stream.

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Mexican President José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz

Page 368, Alias Soapy Smith:

The most probable scenario is that sometime in latter February or early March, President Diaz received reliable information that the Colonel Smith who represented himself as a soldier was an imposter and that he was instead a notorious gambler and confidence man. Possibly the President was sent word by the News, although any number of Jeff’s enemies could have done the same. With hopes of military greatness in Mexico shattered, Jeff, as stories tell, also had to endure the Mexican dictator’s warning him never to put boots on Mexican soil again. Doing so would mean imprisonment, even execution. Jeff had no friends in Mexico’s capital to help him work the system. Beginning at the top of the dictatorship and being discovered by the dictator himself, Jeff could do nothing but take the stern rebuke and move on. In addition to the private blow to his pride, he must have been in for another when it came to explaining to confederates who had followed him that the adventure was off.

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Artifact #4, side B)

Ignoring the warning, however, Jeff made several more trips to Mexico but apparently only so far as Monterey—about 500 miles northeast of Mexico City. The last solid reference to Jeff’s being in Mexico appears on a postcard, one side of which advertises one John Haley who was apparently “well connected” there. On the card Haley writes to Jeff,

What about the concession you wanted me to get you? Please tell Julio Levies if he wants anything in Monterey to write me stating what he is willing to pay. The faro game here is doing well. Do you intend to return to Monterey if so when?
Truly yours
John Haley

The advertisement on Haley’s card gives insight to the type of work he prefers:

Nota Bene
I will manage, compromise, or fight to a finish Law Suits in any part of Mexico. … Will assist in getting Concessions from the City, State and Federal Governments, and make a specialty of
from the United States. I will have nothing to do with Divorce Suits, Shadowing, reporting the conduct of Employés, nor hunting husbands and wives that are “lost, strayed or stolen.”

I have some of the best legal advisers in the Republic. State your case, and if I take it I will give you my references.
Truly yours,
Monterey, Mexico.

On March 1, 1895, Jeff arrived in Denver was immediately interviewed by the Post about his two-month stay in Mexico.

He Returns From a Pleasant Trip to Mexico.
Colonel Jefferson Runnymeade Smith arrived in Denver yesterday from the City of Mexico, where he has been the honorary guest of President Diaz for the past two months.

The colonel entertained his many friends with glowing and interesting accounts of his experience at the Mexican capital, and with many tears of regret for the dear friends he left behind, he referred to his numerous trips into the interior with his “grip” filled with neat packages of soap and a trio of indispensable shells.

Jeff denies that he left Denver to avoid taking part in the old police board row, and treats with contempt the report that he intended to join the revolution in Nicaragua.

The colonel remarked that he returned home simply to meet his old friends and, if possible, to increase the list of his acquaintances.

Eight days later, Jeff announced his candidacy for Alderman in the Ninth Ward. That's Soapy for you.


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